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Mon 10th Jan 2022 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day: 

‘Devastating’ festive period saw Welsh pubs lose £16,000 on average, anger as restrictions remain in place: Welsh pubs lost, on average, £16,000 in revenue over a “devastating” festive period, according to the Welsh Beer and Pub Association (WBPA). Over the two-week period from 19 December to 1 January, revenue was down 34% from the same period in 2019, while during the second week, performance in Welsh pubs was 13pp worse than pubs in England. Welsh pubs have been subject to level two restrictions during the period in question, including the rule of six, table service and social distancing. First minister Mark Drakeford announced on Friday (7 January) that the restrictions will remain in place for now, leading the WBPA to demand a clear timeline on when they will be lifted. WBPA chief executive, Emma McClarkin, said: “The festive period has been devasting for our pubs and brewers in Wales, who had targeted this time as an opportunity to recuperate some of the losses they have experienced over the past 21 months. The restrictions in place are significantly impacting trade at a time which is already extremely difficult for the sector. It is imperative that a timeline is put in place for the removal of these restrictions, enabling the sector to navigate the challenges ahead. Should alert level two restrictions remain in place, it is evident that additional financial support will be needed to support the sector already at breaking point.” Meanwhile, a Cardiff bar owner has warned that moving Wales’ forthcoming Six Nations home games across the border to England would be financially devastating for the city’s pubs. The move is being considered as Welsh covid rules would prevent fans from attending the fixtures. “Millions will be drained from the local economy, as it has done over Christmas, and it just can’t continue like this,” Gary Corp, whose City Arms venue makes £15,000 on matchdays, told the BBC. “We missed out on some of our most profitable nights of the year. If no fans were allowed into the ground during the Six Nations, it would be devastating for us.”

Industry News:

Full speaker schedule for Restaurant Marketer and Innovator this month unveiled: The full speaker schedule has been unveiled for the Restaurant Marketer & Innovator event held later this month. Click here to view the full schedule. Operators taking part include: The Alchemist, Coco di Mama, Vapiano, Individual Restaurant Company, Anglian Country inns, Compass, Dishoom, BrewDog, Elior UK, Punch, Greene King, Just Eat, TGI Fridays, Big Mamma Group, Gamechangers Hospitality Investments, Lane7, Mission Mars, Wing Shack, London Cocktail Club, Incipio Group, Kerb Food, PPHE Group, Hilton, Pho, Ennismore, Eataly, Pizza Pilgrims, Le Pain Quotidien, Bone Daddies Group, YO!, Rum Kitchen, New World Trading Company and Arc Inspirations. One day operator price is £345 plus VAT, two-day operator price is £575 plus VAT. One day supplier rate is £445 plus VAT, two-day supplier rate is £795 plus VAT. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to book.

Next edition of definitive sector profitability guide shows damage done by pandemic: The next edition of the Propel’s Turnover & Profits Blue Book, which is updated monthly for Premium subscribers, shows the full damage done to the sector by the pandemic. It features 321 companies making a combined loss of £8.17bn compared to 186 companies in profit – making a combined £797m. Losses now outstrip profits in the sector ten times over. The next Blue Book will feature more than 500 companies when it is published on Friday 14 January at midday. The next edition shows the pandemic’s effect on the sector, with 321 companies making a combined loss of just over £8bn. Total turnover of the 500 biggest sector companies stands at £28.5bn. The Blue Book, which is produced in association with Mapal Group, provides a five-year overview of turnover and profit, ranking companies according to turnover, pre-tax profit and profit conversion. It also provides details of directors’ earnings and highest paid directors. Premium subscribers also receive two other databases – the New Openings Database, produced in association with StarStock, and the Multi-Site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each month. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The single subscription rate is £445 plus VAT for operators and £545 plus VAT for suppliers. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel group editor Mark Wingett

Propel and COREcruitment spotlight BAME entrepreneurs: Propel has partnered with COREcruitment to spotlight some of the leading sector individuals from the UK BAME community this week. Today, in a video released at 9am, Krishnan Doyle talks to Iqbal Wahhab OBE, a Bangladeshi-born British businessman and founder of Tandoori Magazine. Iqbal has won a number of major awards and accolades during his career and has received an Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from the University of East London, and Honorary Doctorate in Science from the University of West London.

Hundreds of gyms face closure because of lack of funding support: Hundreds of gyms are facing permanent closure this winter, as the government faces accusations of “harming public health” by not including the industry in funding support. Plan B measures introduced in December to help slow the spread of the omicron variant have led to a fall in revenue of more than £200m, according to ukactive, the not-for-profit health body. City centre gyms and studios have had 70% reduction in football in December, and there are “serious concerns” that people will continue to stay away during the new year – a time which normally sees 25% of new joiners sign up. The initial UK lockdowns had already resulted in 400 gyms, pools and leisure centres closing, ukactive said. Without support, an additional 400 could also shut, meaning more than 10% of the UK’s facilities will have been lost during the pandemic. There were approximately 7,200 facilities in the UK pre-covid.

Job of the Day: COREcruitment has partnered with a popular visitor attraction in Brighton to recruit a senior operations manager. The hiring company is looking for a candidate to lead the food and beverages function across multiple restaurants and fast-food outlets. The candidate will also work in developing the propositional strategy and delivering commercial performance while maintaining multiple food and beverage outlets and driving efficiency and profitability. A COREcruitment spokesperson said: “The successful applicant will be responsible for maximising bar and food sales opportunities through an effective business plan and be commercially focused while totally understanding the needs of staff development and customer service and feedback as a key to success. The successful applicant will also look after recruiting, training, and managing the performance of the team.” The hiring company is looking to pay £60,000+ for the right candidate. If you would like to find out more, contact David@corecruitment.com.
 

Company News: 

Arts Club in London reports only 3% of members resigned during pandemic first year: The Arts Club in London’s Dover Street has reported only 3% of its members resigned in the year to 31 December 2020, despite not being able to use the club for five months of the year, while turnover dropped to £16,158,108 from £26,639,87 the year before. It made a loss of £4,554,327 after £4,467,743 of debt impairment, having made a pre-tax profit of £693,000 the year before. It stated: “Membership revenues, which normally represent 40% of the business, surged to 56% due to a steady and continuous inflow of renewals corroborated by some newly elected members who joined despite the restrictions imposed by the government during the pandemic. The retention of existing members has been quite remarkable, recording an active resignation rate of 3% only.” The company said it had continuously engaged with members through online events, podcasts and virtual networking. It added: “The club has introduced a monetary gift card given to each member equivalent to the value of the subscription pro-rated for the period the club remained closed as compensation for the loyalty demonstrated. As a result, the busines has managed to secure cash reserves which have been utilised to support and subsidise the salaries of the staff as well as other ongoing liabilities. The food and beverage activity which normally accounts for about 60% of the overall turnover reduced significantly, now reaching 44% of the total revenue. Nevertheless, due to a rigorous restructure of the costs and expenses which coped with the contribution of the government furlough scheme, the division itself reached break-even point.” In 2016, a consortium led by property developer and former Admiral Taverns owner Gary Landesberg and co-founder of Roka and Zuma Arjun Waney sold the freehold of The Arts Club for £90m to an unnamed European family. The club has a 35-year lease to occupy, and the former freehold owners are still directors of the club.

Ottolenghi – diversifying our sales channels proved invaluable during the pandemic, now a higher margin business: London restaurant operator Ottolenghi has reported a positive Ebitda of £185,000 in the year to 31 March 2021 (2020: £1,371,728) thanks to diversifying its sales channels. It stated: “Three of our six trading sites were closed for 70% of the year. As a result, our turnover decreased by £12,962,225 to £7,883,232. Presenting as positive Ebitda after this pandemic-hit year is a testament to the ability of the business to weather an exceedingly challenging trading environment. We are gratified that our long-held belief in diversifying sales channels (eat-in, delis, online and deliveries) has proved invaluable to our success through this year. We have further diversified our product range this year through the growth of Ottolenghi Ready pouches, dinner boxes, prepare-at-home meal kits and a tableware licensing deal. All our costs were challenged whilst ensuring we were able to continue delivering the exceptional level of product and service which our customers expect. This in turn means we now operate at a higher margin busines than before covid-19.”  The business took out a £3.7m CBIL with OakNorth, £1.5m of which has now been repaid. It also opened a deli in Marylebone in July 2021 which is “trading well” but closed a site in Motcomb Street last month, and will be opening a new site around the corner on Pavilion Road.

Thai Leisure Group reports promising trading results following two CVAs: Thai Leisure Group, operator of Thaikhun and Chaophraya among its four premium and casual dining brands, has reported promising initial trading results from April 2021 following two CVAs. The group, which was founded in 2004 and operates 18 restaurants across the UK, entered its first CVA in October 2019 following challenging trading conditions. It was trading well – in line with or exceeding the budget set out in the CVA – until the covid-forced closure of its restaurants five months later. A second CVA was subsequently set up and came into force in September 2020 – and which the company will operate under until September this year. The company made a pre-tax £1,881,945 loss in the year ending 30 January 2021 compared to a £1,906,365 pre-tax profit the previous year, while turnover was down from £30,581,643 to £12,976,664. “The company traded on budget during the brief period of eased restrictions during late 2020,” it stated. “While this budget was modest…the footfall was still there, suggesting the brand had remained strong. Heading into 2021 and further enforced closures, the company was in a strong cash position and positioned themselves well to ride out the latest restrictions. Initial trading results from mid-April 2021 are promising, with revenue and profitability significantly above 2019 levels. Following this strong trading performance, the company is in discussions with the bank to renegotiate the banking covenants to allow for investment to be made into the core estate to further enhance the revenues and profitability of some of its key sites. These negotiations, together with maintained cost saving initiatives and its CVA negotiated reduced fixed cost base, should allow the company to return to some level of normality into 2021/22. The directors remain confident that, provided there are no further restrictions, the company is well placed to consolidate in the short term.” The company’s refreshing of its existing estate will focus on its two market leaders, Chaophraya and Thaikhun, while any expansion ambitions will be put on hold in the medium term.

Island Poke opens two new sites, eyes further London expansion: Island Poké, the London-based, White Rabbit Projects and Hero Brands-backed business, has opened two new London sites and set its sights on further expansion across the capital. The company, which last month announced plans to open four new restaurants in Edinburgh over the next two years, last week threw open the doors of new venues in Northcote Road, Battersea, and Boxpark, Wembley Park. The brand now has 18 sites in London and nine in France and is also looking to expand its delivery partnership with dark kitchen operators Reef. Island Poké founder James Gould-Porter, whose business idea came from childhood summers spent on California beaches, said: “It’s great to be expanding across London with more fantastic locations in Battersea and Wembley. It’s our mission to grow our ohana across London and beyond, bringing people a great and fresh alternative to the traditional lunch and dine-out offering.” Island Poké is also launching a new menu with a range of vegan options, to celebrate Veganuary.

Jean-Baptiste Requien appointed COO of Ivy Asia: Serial sector investor Richard Caring has appointed Jean-Baptiste Requien, formerly of D&D London and Big Easy Restaurants, as chief operating officer of his Ivy Asia brand, Propel has learned. Requien has spent the past four years as director of operations at D&D London and previously worked at Big Easy Restaurants and Park Chinois. His first task will be to oversee the brand’s upcoming launch this March in Guildford’s Tunsgate Quarter scheme. Last September, the company submitted a licensing application for an Ivy Asia site in Cardiff, close to its existing The Ivy site in the city. It has also submitted plans to open an Ivy Asia in Leeds, on the former French Connection store in the city. The Ivy Collection has also been linked with opening Ivy Asia sites in Brighton and Glasgow. Last month, it was revealed that Caring had taken day-to-day control of his restaurant empire, which includes Bill’s and the Ivy Collection, after the departure of chief executive Baton Berisha. It was understood Caring believes his sprawling business, which includes Caprice Holdings, is too large to be under the control of one chief executive and plans to split the role in future. Rebecca Tooth is currently chief operating officer at Bill’s, while Richard Clark is managing director of Caprice Holdings. 

Gaucho eyes Newcastle opening: Gaucho, the Rare Restaurants-owned and Martin Williams-led brand, is looking to further add to its regional presence with an opening in Newcastle. According to Chronicle Live, the company has lodged plans for a site on the corner of Market Street and Pilgrim Street, on a former Virgin Money site, in the city. Next month, Gaucho is scheduled to open Scotland’s first carbon-free steak restaurant, in Glasgow. The restaurant, which will be in the former Benihana site in West Nile Street, will be the brand’s 17th site. It also operates regional sites in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.

Home deliveries and supermarket listings help Ossett Brewery through pandemic: The introduction of home deliveries, click-and-collect and new supermarket listings helped West Yorkshire-based Ossett Brewery navigate the pandemic, despite covid restrictions reducing sales by 59% in the year to 31 March 2021. The company said that throughout the pandemic, new opportunities have arisen for the business, including starting home deliveries and click-and-collect from its main brewery and 13 of its closed pubs and bars. The group’s Salt Beer Factory also developed several supermarket listings, with sales growth of 117% in the 12 months. During the period, Salt was also accepted into the 2021 Tesco Incubator Scheme. At the same time, the group negotiated a £1.5m CBIL from HSBC and received local authority grants totalling £953,504. The company said that since the reopening of its 27 pubs across West Yorkshire, it had been “extremely pleased” with its financial performance. Turnover for the year to 31 March 2021 stood at £7.07m (2020: £17.2m), with a pre-tax loss of £1.05m against a loss of £757,238 the previous year. Last November, Salt Brewery acquired two former Hop Stuff taprooms, and its ex-brewery in London as it looks to grow on a national scale. The brewery, Salt London, based in White Hart Avenue in Greenwich, will more than double the production capacity of the Salt brand, preparing for the next phase of growth. The taprooms, based at Market Yard and Royal Arsenal, will be rebranded as Salt craft + pizza. 

Megan’s plans Guildford opening: London-based cafe and deli concept Megan’s is looking to further add to its regional openings pipeline with a site in Guildford. Propel understands that the Sarah Hills-led business, which recently opened its 14th site, in Dulwich Village, is planning to open on the Moss Bros site in the Surrey town’s High Street. The business has already lined up three openings for early 2022, including a site in Welwyn Garden City. The business will also open at the former Laura Ashley site in Kingston, and then at the ex-Prezzo site in Marlow’s High Street. Last autumn, the company said it plans to expand to 22 sites by the end of this year. It is thought to be looking to open a site in Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, and has further openings planned in Chelsea, Richmond and Weybridge.

Balfour Hospitality secures Bow Wine Vaults in the City: Balfour Hospitality, the parent company of Hush Heath Inns, the managed joint venture between Ei Group and Hush Heath Estate, has added Bow Wine Vaults in the City to its portfolio, Propel has learned. The company said that the Bow Churchyard-based site, its tenth in total, would become the Balfour at Bow and offer the “perfect opportunity to showcase fantastic homegrown wines, straight from the Balfour Winery” – its award-winning winery in Staplehurst, Kent. Last year, the company, which is owned by the Balfour-Lynn family, opened its first site in the Cotswolds after taking on a pub and boutique hotel, the Falcon Inn, in Painswick. Balfour Hospitality also currently operates pubs and hotels across central London, East Sussex and Kent.

Ice cream and frozen yogurt brand Yolé opens five UK sites, eyes further expansion: Yolé, the world’s first no-sugar ice cream and frozen yogurt brand, has opened its first five sites in the UK, with plans for further expansion in the country. The brand, which is owned by Milad Nawaz and Salman Qureshi, made its debut here with openings in Lakeside and Canary Wharf. It has now added sites in Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue and, most recently, Westfield London. A further site is lined up to open in Shoreditch next month. The UK expansion comes after the brand established a presence in countries such as Spain, Portugal, Singapore, Cambodia, and Indonesia. It said that its ongoing global expansion will feature more stores across the UK, Europe and North America in the next year. A Yolé spokesperson said: “We’re extremely proud of how quickly our brand has grown since we arrived in the UK. Our store openings have seen a strong turnout and the initial feedback was very positive. We’ve focused on London so far because it allows us to bring our product to a wide range of clientele.”

Patty & Bun to launch in Clapham: Patty & Bun, the better burger concept led by Joe Grossmann, will open a new restaurant in Clapham after securing a site in Northcote Road. The 1,537 square-foot unit, which will open early in 2022, will be Patty & Bun’s ninth in London and tenth overall, with a single Brighton site also in its portfolio. It will offer 35 covers inside and ten outdoors, offering plant-based, gluten-free and halal options for dining in, delivery and takeaway. Patty & Bun founder, Joe Grossmann, said: “Expanding our business is always something we are excited about, and we feel Clapham reflects our brand ethos in the best way and will be a great addition to our collection of sites.” As revealed by Propel in November, Patty & Bun is also opening a site in Canary Wharf in May. The restaurant at the Wood Wharf development will have space for 70 covers inside with a further 30 covers outside. Both sites will incorporate SideChick – its sister roast chicken and sides concept available for delivery to the surrounding catchments. Shelley Sandzer acted on the Clapham deal.

Three Cheers Pub Co stays profitable despite turnover reducing by more than half: Three Cheers Pub Co, led by former schoolfriends Tom Peake, Mark Reynolds and Nick Fox, remained profitable in the year ending 31 March 2021, despite its turnover being more than halved. The London-based company, which operates an estate of nine pubs across the capital, announced pre-tax profits of £287,606 in its latest accounts, down from £1,225,559 the previous year. This despite its turnover falling by more than half, from £10,735,903 in 2021 to £4,241,741. The company said: “The trading was greatly impacted during the year due to covid-19 induced lockdown, and as a result, the group’s post-tax profit decreased by 79% from last year.”

Palmers Brewery increases pre-tax profits thanks to government grants despite turnover being halved: Dorset-based brewery and pub company Palmers turned a pre-tax profit of £320,205 in the year ending 31 March 2021 (2020: £151,964), despite turnover being more than halved from £9,510,258 to £4,792,613 in the same period. The company was boosted by £547,665 of government grants. It operates 53 pubs in Dorset, Somerset and Devon. The company stated: “The year under review was probably the most testing of our history, which dates back to 1794. We are proud to have given industry-leading support to our licensees, and this has enabled them to welcome customers back and relaunch their businesses from a position of financial strength. The short term is looking very positive, but inflation is looming, and higher taxation will hamper the recovery. Our profit and loss account this year reflects the long periods of lockdown and restrictions endured. Given this backdrop, we are pleased to report a small operating profit for the year. Current trading is positive and, despite the various headwinds, we are fortunate to have an estate well-positioned to benefit from the rise in staycations.”

Paul UK reports net sales dropped by 52.9% in 2020: Paul UK, which operates a large number of central London sites, has reported sales dropped by 52.9% to £19.4m in the year ended 31 December 2020. Ebitda was minus £2.9m compared to positive £2.8m the year before. It made a loss before tax of £5,831,581 compared to a loss of £186,777 the year before. It stated: “Sales have been impacted, particularly in our city and west end and central stores, as offices closed, people worked from home and tourist numbers declined. Paul played in central role in supporting communities by playing an active role in Feed the Front line. It donated more than 5,000 croissants alongside bread rolls, cakes, tarts and coffees to hospitals, NHS staff, the ambulance service and other front-line workers.” The company has not renewed the lease on its site in High Holborn.

Hidden Talents Group to create permanent street food market at west Norfolk pub: Byfords of Holt operator Hidden Talents Group, which is Norfolk-based and led by Iain Wilson, is to develop its Ffolkes Arms site near King’s Lynn with a permanent street food market, three log cabins and a nine-hole crazy golf course. A spokesman said: “On 4 December 2020, The Ffolkes repurposed its stables to bring great food from various local street food vendors, guest DJs and a buzzing atmosphere. Following a fantastic winter of feasting, in March 2021, The Ffolkes decided to extend Street Feast until the end of the year. Now looking to the future, The Ffolkes will be embarking on a six-month project starting in January 2022. The three-phase plans are designed to bring people together, whether to enjoy excellent street food from local traders, a game of nine-hole adventure golf or an overnight stay in a hot-tub cabin.” Last week, Propel reported pre-tax profit of £1,163,000 in the year ended 31 March 2021, up from £1,041,1328 the year before. Turnover at the company, which also undertakes property development, dropped to £3,121,697 from £7,223,498 the year before. The company stated: “The group has managed to maintain profits versus that of the prior year. Costs have been closely controlled, and although investment has continued, the group has continued to be profitable and remains in a healthy cash position given the circumstances.” Cash at bank and in-hand rose to £1,170,532, compared to £483,781 the year before.

Masala Zone and Veeraswamy operator plunges into loss: MW Eats, which operates six Masala Zone sites plus upmarket restaurants Veeraswamy, Chutney Mary and Amaya, has reported a pre-tax loss of £4,469,581 in the year to 31 March 2021 (2020: profit of £861,120). Turnover dropped to £5,803,900 compared to £26,540,993 the year before. The company stated: “Covid-19 has had a significant impact and resulted in the business suffering losses.”

VUR Village Hotels reports £147m pre-tax loss and 22% decrease in portfolio value, but revenues recovering: KSL-backed Vur Village Hotels, which operates 32 hotels and leisure clubs across the UK, has reported a £147m pre-tax loss (2019: £9.5) for the year ended 31 December 2020. Turnover was down from £215.5m in 2019 to £86.5m, while the group’s valuation of its property portfolio decreased by 22% from £730.7m in 2019 to £569.6m. The group launched a new venue, Village Basingstoke, in February 2020, and this has been followed by the openings of Village Southampton Eastleigh last May and Village Bracknell, on the site of a former Hilton Hotel, last month. The company stated: “Prior to 2020, Village invested heavily in its portfolio with the roll-out of new combined all-day dining ‘Pub & Grills’ and repurposing of redundant space into VWorks, a membership-based co-working space. While the group’s strategy for organic growth continues, 2020 was a year of consolidating existing assets while liquidity was restricted due to covid-19 closures. Despite the impact on the hospitality sector during 2020 and 2021, the group remains committed to the expansion of the Village brand.” The company has focused its new strategy on driving up occupancy rates and RevPar, which it feels it has the edge on its competitors on due to “the strong corporate midweek market and high levels of leisure demand”. The pandemic also saw the company’s health and fitness memberships fall by 25% and food and beverage revenue drop by 65%. Room occupancy and food and beverage income have since recovered to better than pre-pandemic levels, while leisure club membership is also recovering well. The company added: “While revenue has recovered well over recent months, Village has remained steadfast in its commitment to controlling cost and protecting profitability. Through the use of technology both in the front-of-house guest experience and behind the scenes in our support services, Village has been able to implement significant process efficiencies that have manifested in cost savings, particularly around labour and payroll.”

Tynemill – government support was insufficient: Nottingham-based brewer and retailer Tynemill, which trades as Castle Rock, has reported a pre-tax loss of £1,264,869 (2020: pre-tax profit of £22,967) in the year to 31 March 2021 on turnover that dropped to £2,210,399 compared to £10,149,562 the year before. Director Colin Wilde said: “Government support was insufficient and did not cover fixed costs such as rents, brewery business rates, insurance and other substantial costs such as bank interest. A net loss of £1,264,869 was in the main financed by a £500,000 CBIL at year-end and by agreeing a structured repayment schedule with HMRC for overdue VAT and beer duty. These all come with as medium-term repayment plan which will hinder investment back into the business and the hope of a quick bounce-back recovery. That said, when given the chance to trade without restrictions, the directors firmly believe that the business will trade forwards profitably and more than adequately cover its obligations to all its stakeholders.” 

Planning officers suggest Jeremy Clarkson’s restaurant should be blocked: A planned new restaurant at TV personality Jeremy Clarkson’s Oxfordshire farm should not be built, a council’s planning officers have said.  Diddly Squat Farm, in Chadlington, is the subject of Clarkson’s Amazon Studios series, Clarkson’s Farm. Officers say the restaurant would be out of keeping with the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). In September, Clarkson admitted the farm had “swamped” the village, but said it led to increased trade for businesses. He hosted a residents’ meeting on the farm that month, when he unveiled plans for the restaurant. Clarkson told Jeremy Vine: “There is more traffic, yes, but there is more business – the village shop is doing better, the cafe in the village, the pub in the village – they are all doing better. They are swamped with people, but they are swamped with people spending money.” If permitted, the restaurant would serve breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, between 8am-3pm and 5pm-10pm.  A total of 53 objections have been received by the council, with another 12 letters of support. Chadlington Parish Council said it held a public meeting in November to decide its view on the “divisive and contentious” application, but a vote was inconclusive.

Utopia Leisure restricts losses with help of government grants, trading well since reopening: Utopia Leisure, which owns and operates luxury hotels across the south east of England, managed to restrict its losses thanks to help from governments grants. The company’s pre-tax losses were £1.9m for the period 30 September 2019 to 28 March 2021, compared to £1.6m for the period 1 October 2018 to 29 September 2019, with £3.4 coming from the government. Turnover also fell by from £23m in 2019 to £18m. The company said it was pleased to have been able to contain pre-tax losses by “implementing new revenue generating opportunities, controlling costs and taking advantage of the various government incentives introduced to support the hospitality sector”. Its hotels stayed open during the lockdowns to support NHS and key workers and vulnerable groups, while the temporary VAT reduction for the sector and “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme helped boost revenue streams. Occupancy rates for 2021 were 33% compared to 68% in 2019, while 37,007 rooms were sold in 2021 compared to 43,318 in 2019. “The directors are delighted with trading since reopening and anticipate an increase in activity due to pent-up demand which is reflected in their confirmed bookings,” the company said. “They believe the company is in a very strong position to weather any further effects of the virus. Once the pandemic has passed, the directors anticipate continued growth in their hotel and hospitality operations and expect to achieve this through the development of existing sites.”

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